Business Relationship Management Research – Where Does the Time Go?


If you have a role as a Business Relationship Manager (BRM), I’d love to engage you in a very quick research study — and I will share the results and analysis with you!

The Context

I recently published a post called When Business Relationship Managers Collude with Dysfunctional Behavior.  I’ve had a lot of comments about this post (as usual, mostly via email – people continue to be shy about posting comments to a blog!) and a request to deliver a webinar for Business Relationship Management Institute. So, I’m developing a webinar entitled “A Day in the Life of an Effective Business Relationship Manager.”  The webinar will examine:

  • Time allocation patterns for Business Relationship Managers
  • A diagnostic approach to re-balancing time allocation for increased business value
  • Addressing Provider dysfunctionalities without becoming part of the problem

The webinar will be held on Friday, October 3, 2014, 11AM-12PM EDT, and is free. If you miss the webinar, BRMI members can download a recording of the webinar about 2 weeks after the actual event.  Non-members can purchase a copy of the webinar recording for $65 USD.

A Research Opportunity

In preparation for the webinar, I have decided to run a small research study, looking at how BRMs spend their time across 10 classifications, and asking them how they would like to see their time allocated in order to realize the optimum value from their role.

If you spend at least half your time in a BRM role, I’d love for you to participate in the research.  In return, I’ll be happy to share the research results and analysis with you.

Simply click on this link and you will be taken to the research survey.  Completing the survey should take less than 10 minutes.

Thank you!

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Does This Mean the End of the Business Relationship Manager?

endoftheworldToday, it seems that the Business Relationship Manager (BRM) role is gaining prominence, recognition and momentum.  I witness this daily through the incredible interest in and membership of Business Relationship Management Institute and through the lens of no less that 4 LinkedIn groups dedicated to the BRM role.  I also see it directly through requests for BRM training and certification, and for demand for consulting in the BRM space.

All This is Great — But What of the Future of BRM?

To gain insight into the future of the BRM role, we need to think about the past, the current state and the two ‘megatrend’ forces acting on the BRM role:

  1. The BRM role is a result of the need for an efficient, effective, value-driven ‘bridge’ between a service supplier (often an internal IT organization) and its business customers/clients.  After 50 years or so where the IT organization and its business customers lived either side of a virtual brick wall, the BRM acts as a window in the wall through which IT-speak and business-speak are translated one into the other, with the result that business demand for IT services and supply of those services is aligned based upon potential business value realization.
  2. The so-called “consumerization of IT” and the availability of cloud-based services for Software, Infrastructure and Platforms (SaaS, IaaS, PaaS) are another force that is breaking down business-IT barriers.

These forces were in many ways predicted by author and futurist Alvin Toffler, who wrote about the cleavage between production and consumption that in many ways fueled the industrial revolution, and that the technologies of the “Third Wave” would heal that breach with a rise of “prosumerism”– the combining of production (the IT organization) and consumption (the business customer of the IT organization.)  I’ve referred in previous posts to this shift in the IT provider-consumer relationship as “convergence” of business and IT.

Is the BRM Role Permanent or Temporary?

If you think through these three forces, you might be drawn to the conclusion that the BRM is a temporary role–one that over time, in conjunction with forces such as cloud computing and the consumerization of IT, tends to eliminate the need for itself.  Of course, predicting the future is always a dangerous proposition, but I personally believe that the most successful BRM’s will approach the role as though it is temporary, following a “teach them to fish” philosophy, rather than “catch fish for them.”  From my experience, when a role such as BRM is approached in this way, it tends to stay relevant and valued for a very long time.

Mutual Understanding Results in Business-IT Alignment

When there is excellent mutual understanding among the key stakeholders, businesses and their IT organizations become aligned. But the forces acting on both the business and the IT organization impact the dynamics of mutual understanding and over time it is all but impossible to keep business and IT aligned.

Empowerment Results in Business-IT Convergence

When the business is empowered with information and IT through a robust infrastructure coupled with the knowledge and skills needed to drive value from IT capabilities, the type of alignment thus gained is not only lasting, it actually strengthens and deepens over time. The BRM is key to ensuring that the information and IT infrastructure is fully appropriate and properly leveraged, and that the necessary knowledge and skills are in place.

The Moral?

Approach your BRM role as temporary–and it will be forever valued!


Image courtesy of A New World Society

When Business Relationship Managers Collude with Dysfunctional Behavior

5-dysfunctions-of-a-trial-team-fix-dysfunctional-litigationI’m often consulted when a Business Relationship Management (BRM) team is experiencing an identity crisis regarding any or all of its:

  • Mission
  • Vision
  • Roles
  • Metrics
  • Value proposition

All That Hard Work Might Be Misguided!

Typically, the BRM team is working very hard to act as a valued bridge between an internal (and sometimes, external) provider, most often an IT organization and their Business Partners. Unfortunately, dysfunctionality in the IT organization (frequently, one of the main reasons the BRM role was established in the first place) is inadvertently ‘masked’ by the BRM in a noble attempt to please their Business Partners. This happens when they ‘pick up the pieces’ when processes fail or when things fall through the cracks, or even when they step in by way of anticipating a process, project or service deficiency.

Adding Cost – But Not Adding Value

These “pick up the pieces” and “gap filling” activities might feel valuable (“Well, I prevented a fire!” or, “I was able to mollify my Business Partner when we blew the agreed service levels!”) but in reality they add cost, not value:

  1. Expensive people (BRMs) are spending valuable time compensating for broken processes or poor service and/or project management. Those broken processes and poorly managed services and projects cost money to run, especially when they don’t run well. All the BRM is doing is adding more cost (interventions) and masking the defects.
  2. By masking the defects, the broken processes and poorly managed services and projects perpetuate — incurring not only the costs of those processes and services, but also incurring the costs of poor quality, rework and delays.
  3. By stepping into essentially tactical activities, the Business Partner sees the BRM as a tactical resource and is less likely to engage them in potentially high-value producing activities such as demand shaping, business problem solving and strategy formulation.

Where Does the BRM’s Time Go?

BRM Time Pie 1

Typical BRM Time Allocation

One of the exercises I often ask my consulting clients to go through is to identify a list of 8 to 10 major activities they engage in, and then keep a log of where their time goes, for a couple of weeks or a month. The chart above is a simplified example of what I often see in a relatively mature IT organization.  (In a less mature organization, the numbers are far less attractive!) Some things to note:

  • Only 10% of the BRM’s time is devoted to Demand Shaping (stimulating ideas and opportunities for high business value demand, while suppressing, deflecting or redirecting requests that will deliver little to no net business value). This can be one of the most valuable BRM activities, but at 4 hours per week, is unlikely to yield significant results.
  • At least 15% of the BRM’s time is devoted to Service Management. This should be the focus of the Service Management group — not the BRM. While Service Management is critically important (necessary ‘table stakes’ for building trust and respect between the business partner and their IT organization) is is not where BRM’s should be spending so much of their time.  Not only is this a misuse of BRM time, but it positions the BRM in a non-strategic role — significantly reducing the chances that they will be “invited to the strategy table” where they have a real and important opportunity to influence business value.
  • 15% of the BRM’s time is on communication (formally communicating about project status, service status, etc.) 6 hours per week is a lot of time spent on this types of communication and is often a symptom of IT dysfunctionality. If processes are not well defined and continuously improving, and if roles are not clearly defined with clear responsibilities and accountabilities, the need for ‘communication’ to compensate for this dysfunctionality blossoms (dealing with the aftermath of service lapses, explaining rework and schedule slippages, etc.)

Where Does Your BRM’s Time Go?

Ignoring the specifics of the illustration above, think for a minute about the general principles I’m surfacing:

  1. Where are you spending your time? Have you performed the analysis?  What 8 to 10 major activities do you engage in?
  2. How should you be spending your time? Which activities have the potential to create the most business value?
  3. On which activities are you spending time that is actually masking problems elsewhere? Are you helping solve those problems, or are you simply compensating for them?

Note: My next on-line BRMP Certification course is being held across 3 Tuesdays—September 2, 9 and 16 . For details, please click here.

Image courtesy of A2L Consulting

Business Relationship Management and Cloud Services – Friends or Foes?

friend-or-foeCloud computing is a reality in most corporate computing environments today and, like it or not, is an increasingly important part of the enterprise computing landscape. There are several important aspects of cloud computing, particularly in its Software as a Service (SaaS) variation. These include:

  1. Little to no capital outlay.
  2. Low barrier to entry for the customer–sign a deal and you are in!
  3. Relatively attractive pricing.
  4. Often, few decisions to make–what you see is what you get! (Little to no customization opportunities.)

Some Software as a Service Implications

The four aspects of SaaS outlined above lead to a couple of important implications:

  1. Reduced dependency on central IT to find, evaluate, procure, operate and maintain a business solution.
  2. While entry costs might be low, overall life cycle costs for SaaS solutions can be significantly higher than traditional IT solutions. (The typical business model for SaaS providers is to fully recover costs in 4 years–revenues collected beyond that period are essentially pure profit.

The danger here is that with the attractiveness and ease of engaging of SaaS services, many business executives will see this as a pure business decision, and sign up without involving their IT departments.  Many will do this in ignorance of the wisdom of involving enterprise IT–others will do it as an expedient measure, believing that it is easier to ask forgiveness later than to ask for permission up front!

Implication #1 – The Funding Challenge

Depending upon your IT funding model, the ongoing costs of SaaS solutions may well show up in the IT budget, even though IT was not involved in the procurement decision. To use a crude analogy, it’s as if your teenage son took a second mortgage on your house to remodel their bedroom without asking your permission — and the second mortgage is in your name!

Implication #2 – The Architectural Challenge

The direct engagement of the SaaS solution by a business unit might lead to redundant or incompatible solutions. For example, business unit A might sign up for a Learning Management solution. Subsequently, business unit B decides to sign up for their own Learning Management solution. The company now has two different Learning Management solutions, leading to higher costs than if one solution had been shared, and a major headache for the Human Resources organization trying to manage staff development as an enterprise-wide initiative. To pick up on my house analogy used above, this is as if your teenage daughter now remodels her bedroom and signs up with different cable TV provider from that procured by her brother–and dad now has two cable TV bills to pay, but is unable to watch his favorite channel because it was not included in either of the cable TV services!

Implication #3 – The Data Analytics Challenge

As each business unit engages its own choices of SaaS solutions, the ability of the company to make meaning from all the data that passes through it becomes more and more difficult, as disparate solutions fragment the overall data picture. The promise of “big data” collapses into the nightmare of “what data?” and “whose data?” Back to our analogy, dad has to hunt around just to find out what TV channels are available in his house, and who is watching them!

Implication #4 – The Wrong Problem/Wrong Solution Challenge

In many cases, the business unit signing up for the SaaS solution may not have applied the analytical skills and experience to understand the root cause of the business problem they are trying to address. Whether or not the SaaS provider was taking advantage of an unwary buyer, the provider does not have the business context, analytical skills or incentive to really understand the customer’s business problem and to ensure they are getting the best possible solution. It’s as if the teenage children are being sold High Definition TV channels that won’t work properly on their low definition television sets.

The Business Relationship Manager Solution

These implications can be headed off at the pass if there is a skilled Business Relationship Manager (BRM) in place who can act as a bridge between the business unit and its IT organization, and can work with the SaaS providers to ensure the right problems are being solved with the best possible solutions. They can ensure that the funding, architectural and data management perspectives are all taken into account, helping to orchestrate the appropriate business and IT resources. These benefits of a well-implemented BRM role have existed for years. In the age of SaaS and Cloud Computing, the role becomes even more valuable.

What other challenges have you seen surface from the inexorable move towards SaaS?

Note: My next on-line BRMP Certification course is being held across 3 Tuesdays—September 2, 9 and 16 . For details, please click here.


When You’re Too Busy to Think, It’s Time to Stop and Think!

too-busyI used to joke (half-joke, actually—there was an element of truth in it!) that my consulting clients pay me to climb on a plane, read the latest IT management book, then tell them what I’ve learned. And they were thrilled because they never had time to read the book! This is a sad admission and reflects a sorry state of affairs.

Most of my clients are too busy to think about anything except how busy they are. I’ll ask them to review a document or model and they will take 15 minutes to tell me all the reasons they don’t have time to do the review—a review that would have taken them 5 minutes at most!

I was working with an IT Leadership team a while ago and I asked them to review some material prior to a workshop. When the workshop was held a couple of weeks later, I asked who had reviewed the material. One member of the team actually had and came to the workshop prepared with some thoughtful questions and comments. The other team members sheepishly admitted that they had not reviewed the material—they were “too busy!” By the way, there seemed to be little guilt or apology for the lack of preparation—it seemed to be culturally acceptable (almost expected) that preparation was a luxury, not a necessity!

What Happens When We Are Too Busy to Think?

This is what transpired.

  1. Much of the workshop time was wasted taking the team through the material they’d been asked to review. By the time we were ready for the substantial discussions I was hoping for, it was time to close the workshop. The 10 minutes review I’d asked them to make turned into 90 minutes of group time, with no time left to reach alignment and make decisions. Another 90 minute workshop had to be scheduled to achieve this.
  2. The one team member who did their homework felt cheated—their 10 minutes of review time had been wasted, and on top of that they had to sit through a 90 minute discussion that was not productive for them.
  3. All the team members subsequently had to sacrifice another 90 minutes that could have been avoided if they’d taken the 10 minutes to do the preparation asked of them.

I suppose this is somewhat like the late Dr. Stephen Covey’sno time to sharpen the saw” parable. The issue is common—too busy to think about anything except being too busy! My colleague and BRMI co-founder, Dr. Aleksandr Zhuk recently sent me a gift of a new book—“Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” by Greg McKeown. This book is largely about the “too busy” issue, and provides some great methods for getting down to the critical few instead of being swamped by the trivial many. The book really resonates with me for a couple of reasons:

  1. When I declared myself “semi-retired” about 4 years ago, I forced myself to focus my reduced workweek on the “critical few”. My productivity soared, my stress level dissipated, and life started to look and feel much better than it had in years! I was in control, instead of being controlled by others.
  2. There is so much in what I teach about the Business Relationship Management role that is about proactive demand management based upon business value realization that incorporates the essence of Essentialism. I was actually getting more done in less time!

The sad part of all this is that I now have time to read and absorb books like Essentialism, while my clients continue to chase their tails trying to do more and more with less and less. I guess I need to climb on a plane and tell them what I’ve learned!

What is the Value of a Business Relationship Manager?

valueWhile many companies deploy Business Relationship Managers (BRM) as a matter of faith, some are looking for a strong business case before they invest in establishing a BRM capability.

Clarifying a business case, determining what value will accrue and how that value will be measured and felt is completely consistent with the fundamental principles of Business Relationship Management. As such, even though the case might seem self-evident, it is a good practice to articulate the BRM value proposition. Furthermore, as is taught in the BRMP® certification training, clarifying how benefits are experienced, captured, and communicated is a key aspect of Business Relationship Management.

Free Webinar!

On July 18, between 11am and noon Eastern Time I will be leading a webinar that will examine the BRM value proposition and will provide a framework to help you establish the importance of Business Relationship Management and how to measure and monitor success.  I will discuss:

  • What is the value of Business Relationship Management?
  • What is the best way to communicate the BRM Value Proposition?
  • A BRM Value Measurement Framework

The Webinar will be held via Citrix GoToWebinar. All that is required is a computer with a browser and a high speed Internet connection, with either a telephone, or a microphone and speakers or a headset. We will send you the link to the event and other details when you register.

The Webinar is free.  To register, please click here.

Within two weeks after the broadcast, the webinar materials will be made available to BRMI members through BRMI Webinar Recordings Archive. Non-members will be able to purchase the materials for $65 through the BRMI website.

Key IT Roles for Driving Business Value

Contract-to-Hire-BlogI’ve posted at length about the Business Relationship Manager (BRM) role as being key to driving business value from IT. But what other roles—typically under-served—work with the BRM in the pursuit of business value from IT?
In this post, I am going to introduce three dimensions of value realization than are important to driving business value. Along with those dimensions, I will discuss three roles that are associated with those disciplines.

Note: This post refers to roles. A role is not the same thing as a job. Think of a role as a ‘hat’ you wear if you meet certain qualifications (possess certain competencies). When you are qualified to wear a given hat, you have certain responsibilities and accountabilities. Roles, the competencies they demand, the processes in which they participate, and the ways they engage with other roles are all characteristics that are defined in an IT Operating Model. Some people will fill multiple roles, depending upon circumstances and needs.

Three Dimensions of Value Realization

So, how does IT increase its impact on Business Value Realization? There are three major value sources that the IT organization can impact:

Screen Shot 2014-06-26 at 1.21.31 PMLet’s examine each of these dimensions.

Shaping Business Demand

At low maturity, an IT organization is often referred to as “order takers” for business requests. One the face of it, this sounds customer-centric and responsive. However, the reality is that at low maturity, much  business demand yields relatively little business value. It’s also the case than when the business client has already figured out what they need before the engage IT (or if the business client has depended upon external consultants and vendors to tell them what they need) then the IT organization’s opportunities to add value are very limited.

If an IT organization is able to engage with their business partners earlier—to be proactive, not simply responsive, they can stimulate, surface and shape demand towards higher value opportunities. And these high value opportunities tend to suppress demand for low value activities, so more people are working on high value opportunities.

Shaping business demand is an important discipline for increasing IT maturity, and with it, driving more value from IT. Associated with this discipline is the role of Business Relationship Manager (BRM)—a role that sits between an IT organization and its business clients. In leading practice organizations, the BRM role (or whatever label it goes by) is focused on demand management, with an eye to elevating business value of IT.

Leveraging IT Assets and Information

At low IT maturity, much effort goes towards establishing a supportive, reliable and predictable infrastructure and the business applications that depend upon that infrastructure. Typically, these business applications go significantly under-leveraged. The cost, effort and business disruption associated with their deployment tends to lead to a mentality of “declare success and move on!” The business users need time to get back their breath. They also need to be shown new ways to leverage the platforms and the mountains of information they generate. Also, while IT organizations typically do a good job maintaining these business applications, there is no single role focused on managing their total lifetime value.

In order to increase maturity, architectural and asset management disciplines must be established around business applications, so as to create business platforms and products that enable business process improvement and innovation. Platforms are inherently extensible and readily leveraged—think about the iPhone as a platform, with open, published Application Programming Interfaces (API), the Apple Store and thousands of apps available to run on that platform.

The role responsible for these architectural and asset management disciplines is referred to as Product Management, and is an important aspect of reaching higher maturity and driving business value—ensuring that the full potential value of Business Platforms and Products is exploited and harvested. The BRM role works closely with Product Managers to help create the business appetite for new business capability that leverages the underlying business platforms and products.

Optimizing Business Use

While low maturity IT organizations focus on building, implementing and maintaining business solutions, as maturity increases the focus expands to help optimize the business value realized though using these solutions. This depends upon the discipline of Value Management, which in turn leverages competencies in Business Change Management and Portfolio Management.

There are several roles that are involved in Value Management—that of the Business Sponsor for a given initiative, Portfolio Manager, Business Change Consultant and, again, the BRM with their focus on demand management and business value realization.

In future posts, I will explore each of these disciplines and roles, and how these can be established as part of your IT Operating Model.

Note: My next on-line BRMP Certification courses are being held across 3 Mondays—July 7, 14 and 21, 2014 and 3 Tuesdays—September 2, 9 and 16 . For details, please click here.

Image provided courtesy of